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By Sharan Saikumar

sharan saikumar cartoonI loved the Internet. I loved the freedom from intermediation. I loved the glorious information. I loved it all, till it kicked me in the ass one day.

I am an unapologetic travel junkie. I spend happy hours online, crawling on all fours, hunting for the perfect destination, hidden spots, boutique hotels and other paths less trodden as I plan for my adventures. This time the guns were joyously aimed at Italy. I looked pitifully upon my friend Lata, the ignoramus, who had booked herself to Italy on Raj Travels.

What would she know of the romance of choosing your own road, finding the perfect little hotel- down to the best room, the heady freedom of choice and the limitless wonders of a destination begging to be explored.

As our holidays drew closer, however, I began to notice a strange phenomenon. She seemed relaxed and intent only on planning the perfect wardrobe for a European summer while I seemed to have a mile long checklist of things to do. So while she went hunting for a muffler in just the right shade of magenta, I went hunting for train and bus connections that would join the dots in my itinerary, on websites that steadfastly refused to speak to me in English.

A week or so from departure date my mania hit the roof as I continued to second guess tripadvisor, venere and iescape on the absolute best agriturismo in Tuscany. I had also discovered on Fodor community forums that there was a fabulous scenic rail route going from northern Italy into the Alps and I began scrambling for tickets.

And then just the day before departure, while Lata was pampering herself with a last minute blow dry at the saloon, I realized I had forgotten to book an airport transfer to Venice mainland that would effectively strand us on the island for life.

By the time I finally got down to packing ( which by this time was really throwing things viciously into a suitcase) and printing my carefully collected travel tips, I felt I needed another holiday just to get over the stress of planning this one but I took solace in the smugness that my Italy would be better that Lata’s.

As I awoke on D-day, an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland ( of all places!) decided to do the same. Lata and I were both flabbergasted. Her flabber soon turned to gast a few days later when the skies opened up and groups got flown out on priority with the unceasingly efficient Raj having rescheduled all bookings.

I, on the other hand, was left behind, clutching a bunch of confirmations from various entities in the travel chain with the profound realization that my checklist had forgotten the one thing that could have saved my soul & savings– travel insurance!

As I write this, Lata the ignoramus is in Rome standing in front of the Trevi fountain tasting authentic gelato and I’m sitting in front of the laptop tasting bitter disappointment mingled with deep stupidity.

Now I hate the Internet. I hate the information overload. I hate disintermediation. And I’m not afraid to say it… I love Raj!